Changing the Conversation in 2020 as Messaging Evolves for B2B Marketers
January 21, 2020
When's the last time that you sat through a television commercial? How frequently do you mark unsolicited emails as junk? Are the advertising circulars that come through postal mail immediately deposited in your recycling bin?
While these examples might lean more B2C-centric, they hint toward a changing mindset that transcends into B2B decisions as well. Whether consumers or business decision makers, we’re all humans.
And as humans, we're not inclined to suffer through the hundreds of brand messages that are thrust upon us each day. Buyers just opt out—literally or figuratively—until there's a fancy new widget they want to buy. Even then, they engage with brand messages on their own terms by doing their own research and often bypassing the official channels altogether.
In fact, 57 % percent of the B2B buying process is complete before a buyer ever contacts the company. What's more: According to a McKinsey study two-thirds of marketing touchpoints fall outside of brand communications — via social media, word of mouth, and customer-driven content.
There's a clear takeaway for marketers: We need to evolve the way we engage buyers since the way they want to buy, and engage with brands, is shifting.
The Advertising Approach that's Pulling Ahead
Traditional push marketing strategies—indiscriminately putting out marketing content and hoping for a bite—aren't going to cut it. So, it’s not surprising that there has been a rise in pull marketing strategies and channels designed to deliver the information buyers are looking for when they want it.
The goal is to pull buyers to a destination—such as a website or app—that includes the information someone needs to make an informed decision. But just throwing a pull message out there doesn't mean that someone will tug on the other end. Success requires meaningful brand differentiation and adept use of strategies such as content marketing, paid search, and emerging interactive advertising formats to create personalized, customer-centric, one-to-one marketing experiences.
This helps explain why messaging is on the rise as a central strategic crux.
B2B Messaging in 2020 is Customer-centric
A core problem is that most brand messaging hasn’t been especially customer-focused. According to Forrester's new report on how Customer-Centered Messaging Helps Boost B2B Revenues By Motivating Buyer Action, 88% of B2B marketers admit their homepages talk primarily about their companies, products, and services. So, it's no wonder that 59% of global tech buyers agree that most content from vendors is useless. But they'll slog through until they find what they are looking for, right?
Of course not. A buyer doesn't need to suffer through content that doesn't address their specific needs in language that makes no sense to them. If you can't quickly provide the messaging and meaning buyers are looking for, they will simply move on to a brand that offers a personalized experience.
This is why many marketing leaders including David Karel, CMO of Zenput, believe that companies need a stronger messaging framework. "The teams that put messaging at the core of their marketing strategy are in a stronger position to make an impact," he writes in a post on why B2B messaging matters.
Messaging is more than brochure copy. It's the framework for a brand's story to the world at large. Most messaging frameworks include:
1. A company overview that details the vision and actualities of your brand.
According to David, the goal is to be aspirational but credible. “If you strike the right balance, you’ll come across as a real strategic and visionary partner who can lead customers to the promised land,” he says.
2. Taglines that capture the essential value of the company and products.
Instead of describing what a product or service does, a tagline should encapsulate the value you provide to customers. In other words: What’s in it for them?
3. Unique value proposition and key benefits.
A value prop is not the place to go deep into the specs. “While the features and functions of your solution certainly have their place, it shouldn’t be the focal point of your company’s messaging platform,” noted Natalie Nathanson, Magnetude Consulting CEO, in a Forbes Agency Council post.
4. Target audiences and their relevant paint points.
A detailed understanding of your audience segments is essential. However, most marketers don’t excel at marketing according to personas—only 36% of marketers are adept at segmented communications.
5. Proof that supports your key positioning.
What are the specific ways that your product or service fixes a buyer’s pain points? Think about framing your proof points in a way that is meaningful to your personas. This is a huge need; only 28% of companies use the language of the target audience when developing content.
Of course, developing a strong messaging framework—one that is highly differentiated from competitors —is easier said than done. One thing that can make all the difference is emotion.
B2B Messaging in 2020 is Direct and Conversational
Building a stronger messaging framework and tapping into emotions will help you create more meaningful connections with buyers. But there’s still the matter of getting buyers to pay attention to your brand.
The right venue and format can help cut through the clutter and support buyers’ growing preferences for interacting with marketing content on their own terms. With the smaller target audience associated with B2B, your choice of media should reflect the overall composition of your buying groups and key purchasing influencers. In most cases, we humbly believe LinkedIn is the best place for brands to connect with buyers. Still, it is essential to communicate with prospects on their terms.
As an example, LinkedIn’s Message Ad format enables marketers to initiate a dialogue that serves as a foundation for a meaningful relationship. Our product team understands the importance of reaching buyers where they're increasingly spending their time, and you can expect more investment in this format this year.
The Medium is the Message: Engage Your Prospects on LinkedIn
The emergence of more directly engaging ad formats, fueled by the right messaging framework, represents the future of marketing and advertising. LinkedIn is the professional business network where professional conversations happen, and we’re happy to forge into this exciting future with you all.
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